The civil society groups and supporters of Expanded National Integrated Protected Area System (ENIPAS) have succeeded in their rally to include the five protected areas of Palawan in the first deliberation of the Committee on Environment of the House of Representatives.
During the deliberation of the Committee on Environment and Ecology chaired by Francisco Matugas, they ruled to include the five protected areas of Palawan, as they also pushes for House Bill 4336 or the “Protected Areas Declaration Act of 2014” authored by Congresswoman Josephine Sato of Occidental Mindoro.
The Sato bill seeks to declare via one legislative action105 initial component PAs as republic act PAs. This bill included the five Palawan PAs as follows: El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area, Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, Malampaya Sound Protected Land and Seascape, Rasa Island Wildlife Sanctuary and Mt. Mantalingahan Protected Landscape.
In an interview with 3rd District Congressman Douglas S. Hagedorn, a member of the Committee together with 2nd District Congressman Frederick Abueg, he requested the Committee in their meeting this afternoon, November 11, to turn the meeting into an executive session to comprehensively discuss the matter among its members.
Hagedorn narrated that he questioned the previous move of the Committee to bring the matter to the plenary when there is no consultation made with the Palawan congressmen and the people that will be affected.
“Just a mere letter of the Alvarezes, they struck out the five PA’s of Palawan without checking the veracity of their claim,” Hagedorn said.
He also recognized the support of the civil society groups, the academe, local government units and various organizations who submitted their position papers opposing the move to exclude the five protected areas of Palawan from the ENIPAS Bill.
Atty. Gerthie Mayo-Anda, executive director of Environmental Legal Assistance Center, said that “it is gratifying and inspiring that we were able to mobilize a broad range of Palawan stakeholders to submit their position papers to Congress and to eventually influence the congressional committee to include the Palawan protected areas.”
(READ: Taking the high ground on ENIPAS)
“It only shows that if the Palawan stakeholders get involved and be enlightened on the issues on protected areas then we can effectively engage Congress,” she noted.
Atty. Anda added that people should continue to be on guard and monitor the discussions in Congress. “Hindi tayo pwede maging complacent kasi dadaan pa ito ng bicameral,” she said.
Palawan First District Congressman Franz “Chicoy” Alvarez, in an interview reiterated that he is not against the ENIPAS bill because it has a good intention in the protection of Palawan environment. He however stressed that the security of tenure of people living within the five protected areas must be secured prior to the approval of the bill through land classification.
“Maraming mga tao na naninirahan sa loob ng mga protektadong lugar na nagbabayad na ng tax declarations ng matagal nang panahon na umaasa na balang araw ay mapapatituluhan nila ang lupa nila; kapag naipasa ang panukalang batas ito ay mawawala sa kanila,” Alvarez said.
Congressman Alvarez is hopeful that in the plenary he can share his reasons why he has reservations on the bill.
He added that he is not the only congressman who is clamoring that the bill lacks proper consultation among stakeholders. “Maraming kongresista ang nagrereklamo na hindi rin sila kinunsulta sa usaping ito,” Alvarez said.